Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers
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Russell Westbrook didn’t seem too excited about a bench role when the possibility initially presented itself. He publicly grumbled about back pain when Frank Vogel left him on the bench for extended periods last season, claiming he wasn’t used to such absences. When Darvin Ham brought him off the bench in the preseason finale, he left the game after only five minutes due to a hamstring injury that he would later blame on his reserve role. Before this season, Westbrook had started every game he’d played since his rookie season.

But after the Los Angeles Lakers lost their first three games of the season with him in the starting five, they made a change. Westbrook has come off the bench in his last two games, including the lone victory for the Lakers this season. He’s averaging 18 points, eight rebounds and 5.5 assists per game as a reserve, and now, it appears as though he’s finally accepted his new position. On Tuesday, he acknowledged that a bench role is in everybody’s best interest.

“It’s beneficial for everybody in my opinion,” Westbrook said. “My job is to find ways to keep making my team better. Whatever that it is we need that night, whether it’s assisting, rebounding, scoring, defending, I’m a person that prides myself on doing everything each and every night, and I want to be able to have that trickle down effect with the guys I’m on the floor with.”

Since moving into a bench role, Westbrook has looked much more like his old self. Of his 29 shot attempts in those two games, 20 have come in the restricted area. His energy and athleticism have more of an impact when he enters a game against players who are already tired. While he hasn’t magically learned how to shoot overnight and still has a ways to go as a defender and off-ball offensive player, the Lakers have at least found a way to use Westbrook productively while they seek out a possible trade. They needed Westbrook’s buy-in for that to happen, and now, it seems they have it.





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